Entering this series the Braves were coming off of a dominant 3-game sweep over the Brewers, and the visiting Angels were coming off of arguably their most abysmal hitting performance over a 3-game series all season long against the Blue Jays. It is no secret how dominant the Braves are as they lead the MLB in team home runs, runs scored, and almost every offensive category one can think of. The Angels have hit the most home runs in the American League (mostly thanks to Shohei Ohtani), but were still the heavy underdogs entering Monday’s contest. Prior to the game, Angels starter Griffin Canning was scratched due to general soreness, meaning it would be a bullpen day for the Angels.
As a result, the already -200 line on most sports books favoring the Braves continued to move in the Braves direction. Baseball doesn’t always make sense as the Angels dominated on the mound on Monday despite their initial starter being scratched. 23 year old Chase Silseth threw 5 innings of 1 run ball, Jose Soriano and Aaron Loup threw well in the middle innings, and newly acquired Reynaldo Lopez looked dominant picking up a 2 inning save flashing triple digit fastballs by the Braves best hitters. On the offensive end, the new additions of C.J. Cron and Randal Grichuk (who the Halos traded for on Sunday night from the Rockies) proved to be instrumental with Grichuk hitting a 3rd inning home run and Cron getting a late insurance run with an RBI single with runners in scoring position.
Here are my three takeaways from the game:
Chase Silseth looks sharp
As I mentioned in the introduction, the Angels had to scratch Griffin Canning (who had general soreness) on Monday, leaving them no choice but to go with the next man up, long reliever and spot starter Chase Silseth. The 23 year old Silseth would get an opportunity to start against the best lineup in baseball and try to prove that he belongs in the rotation moving forward. In Silseth’s last start against the Yankees (a struggling lineup without Aaron Judge) he threw 5.2 innings striking out 10 and giving up just 1 run, a solo home run to Giancarlo Stanton.
This time against a better lineup, Silseth still looked in control for the most part tossing 5 innings of 1 run ball with the only run given up being a home run to Matt Olson. Silseth threw a lot of strikes and got in front of hitters as he gave up no walks and struck out 4 Braves. Because of the addition of Lucas Giolito, Silseth will likely remain the 6th starter and main long reliever for the Angels, but he showed he can go up against elite teams and give the Halos a chance to win.
Grichuk, Cron, and Lopez step up in big moments
Randal Grichuk and C.J. Cron were traded to the Angels on Sunday night and made immediate impacts in Monday’s game vs. the Braves. Grichuk was drafted by the Angels in 2009, famously known as the pick before Angels Superstar Mike Trout (the Halos had back-to-back first round selections and picked Grichuk right before Trout). However, Grichuk never played in the big leagues for the Angels as he was traded to the Cardinals in 2013, a year before he made the MLB. On Monday, Grichuk hit a solo home run in the top of the 4th inning that gave the Angels an early 2-0 lead that they never let go.
C.J. Cron played a pivotal part on the Angels’ 98 win team in 2014 as rookie, before three more very productive seasons for the Halos prior to being traded to the Rays for Luis Rengifo. A fan favorite that not many people wanted to see go, Cron is finally back in an Angels uniform and didn’t disappoint in his return, hitting an RBI single in the 9th inning to put the Angels up 4-1. That late insurance run gave reliever Reynaldo Lopez some breathing room against a tough lineup in the bottom of the 9th.
Speaking of Lopez, he threw 2 shutout innings to earn his first save as an Angel (Carlos Estevez had thrown 2 innings the day before and was unavailable). Lopez looked dominant blowing his 100-101 MPH fastball by the heart of the Braves lineup and looking like another high-leverage reliever the Angels can rely on the rest of the season. Lopez had a shaky start to this season for the White Sox, but boasts a 2.45 ERA over his last 30 appearances. Overall, GM Perry Minasian has done a brilliant job with the acquisitions of Cron, Grichuk, Lopez, and Giolito, who will all be crucial pieces for the Halos down the stretch.
Chad Wallach has best game of the season
Chad Wallach is a great defensive catcher, part of the reason why Shohei Ohtani chose him as his personal catcher. However, before July 27th (where Wallach picked up a base hit and went 1-4 against the Tigers) Wallach was in a brutal 0-33 stretch and saw his playing time diminish as a result. After picking up his first hit in almost a month on the 27th, Wallach did not register an at bat until Monday against the Braves where he went 3-4 with a single, double, and a solo home run that helped propel the Angels to victory. With Matt Thaiss’ average now down to .234 after a 3-28 stretch and Wallach starting to heat up at the plate and being a superior defender to Thaiss, Wallach could be due for some additional playing time over the next few days.
The Angels will play game 2 of this 3-game series against the Braves tomorrow with Patrick Sandoval set to pitch against MLB strikeout-leader Spencer Strider. First pitch is scheduled for 4:20 p.m. PT.